Sunday, December 7, 2014

Think of Your Happy Place

I'm sick. Like, coughing, sputtering, sneezing, hair poking up in different directions, pale face and dark circles kind of sick. I'm not the gracious Meg Ryan flannel pyjamas, snuffling delicately, cable knit socks and cups of tea type of sick. I'm "man cold", Nyquil commercial kind of sick.

Let's just say, it's never pretty, especially when dishes pile up, kids still need food, and no one is catering to my every whim, not even the dang dog. She, who has the audacity to whine for a walk, actually reminded me of something pretty important today. I'm sure I would have stumbled on it sooner or later. Possibly never.

So, I spent today day dreaming about travel and watched a beautiful movie and then began to wonder where I would really truly go if money were no object. That elusive "happy place" that people "go to" when things in reality aren't so lovely.

There's a beautiful sound I heard, while walking said whiny dog, just for about two seconds, earlier today. It reminded me of something very integral to my happiness. In fact, the sound I heard today, well, it was only reminiscent of the sound I long to hear, but it was so similar it stopped me and I stood for a few seconds just to see if I could hear it again.

Several years ago, in the days when I had small boys at home and life was one big blur of parks and playgrounds, diapers and dishes, carseats and sticky hands...I used to escape once a week to the mountains. On my husband's days off, I would get up early, sneak out to the garage where I had packed my gear the night before, and head off for a day of skiing. Alone. By myself. Driving with no distractions going on in the rearview mirror, no stretching interventions of bottles thrown to the floorboards or books slid down the door frames, I would enjoy the hour drive up into the mountains with the radio off and the sound of the heater my only company. I would park anywhere in the parking lot, having no need to carry and/or wrangle small boys to our destination. I would get my gear on and head out onto the hill and begin to really breathe deeply again. I would sit by myself on the chair lift and allow myself to be physically and mentally carried away again to the peaks of the mountains where the views were amazing and the challenges set before me were mine to choose. I would ski in the trees, knee deep in powder, and I would stop often and listen for it. The sound I searched for was a particular version of white noise, no pun intended, the sound of skis sliding, branches squeaking, small nearly imperceptible thuds of snow falling off the trees around me. Sometimes there would be the vibrating whirr of a nearby chairlift or the rise and wane of conversation of those riding it to break the stillness. Sometimes a distant shout of a fallen skier alerting his companions that he was fine, gathering his gear up off the mountain side where it had spread out above him.  It was in those moments, and in the rush of seeing my skis rise up to me and then disappear again below the powder, that I felt absolutely free and happy. John Muir, an naturalist and lover of all things outdoors, wrote words that seemed to have come from a similar mindset that I found when standing in the midst of the trees or with my edges dug in parallel to the fall line on a steep face.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. 

Sometimes I find it hard to find that kind of breathing space here in the prairies in the winter. I can find glimpses of it, along the river when the snow is crisp or the trees are crackling under the weight of ice. I can hear the wind howling on a ridge above me and find that sort of space to just relax and breathe, in the valley below, knowing that as I am out of its reach. I haven't found that day long space of being completely free and happy. In the summer, out on the river, on a paddle's easy to find.

Today, walking my dog, she ran ahead of me into a field of wild grasses that were knee deep in snow. I watched her jumping and leaping, digging in the snow and using all her senses to discover all that was around her. I thought of how free she looked and as I kept walking along the tracks set by a snowmobile through the field, I rounded a small grove of birch. It was there that I had just a few seconds reminiscent of being on skis, in the woods, above the clouds. I stood there for a moment and tried to recapture the full feeling of freedom and happiness that I knew had accompanied those sounds before. It was fleeting. It was there. Then it was gone. Suddenly the dog came bounding around the corner catching up to me. I watched her barrel headlong into the birch grove, examining the "secret forts" that the neighbourhood boys built amongst the leaves and bushes this summer, now exposed by the lack of foliage and the stark contrast to the black and white backdrop of the birch trees. I continued my walk but the feeling of chasing that type of freedom and solitude and joy has stayed with me all day, despite the "man cold." So, I'm going there.
If only in my dreams. 


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